There are video game art books, then there are video game art books. Most fall into the first category. Uncharted 2's is a proud member of the latter.
See, most things that call themselves "art books" are nothing of the sort. They're cheap collections of in-game renders and promo art, slapped together in a poor-quality binding and rushed onto the market to make a cheap buck.
Some, however, take things a little more seriously. Go to the trouble of presenting the artwork in an actual book (rather than a glorified magazine). Include stories on how the game was designed and developed. Show some actual art, not just screenshots and renders we've already seen a million times on the game's website.
Uncharted 2's, however, might be better than the lot of them.
Pencils! Paint brushes! - Know what I love most in an art book? Concept art. The sketches, doodles and paintings that set the artists on the road to the characters and environments that actually appear in the game. This book doesn't just feature these, they make up the bulk of its content. There are even a few pieces of sculpture, showing how the designers committed the characters to clay to get a feel for them before generating large 3D models.
The Making Of - While every page is layered with lush, colourful pieces of art, almost every page is also home to tales from the developers and artists on how the game was made, what changes were made between the Uncharted games and other random, mostly unknown insights into the process of making Uncharted 2. Video games are normally lacking in this behind the scenes insight, so it's nice to read some of it here.
Presentation Is Everything - This might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this book benefits from some glorious presentation. As you'll see from the glare in the photos below, each page is printed on thick, glossy paper, which makes beautiful artwork only look better. The two more expensive editions also boast lush packaging, with soft leather covers and embossing making them something to not just read, but treasure.
Size Counts - All that would have been for naught, however, if the book was small, or somehow under-represented the scope of the game. It does not. Between paintings, sketches and 3D models, you get a feel for the creative process behind not just every character in the game, but every location, level and memorable encounter as well.
Bring Money - All that quality comes at a cost, however. Of the three editions of the book, the cheapest, a softcover, still costs USD$65. The brown special edition, with leather, embossed cover costs USD$129, while the folio edition - which admittedly comes with gold embossing and a "hand-crafted presentation case" - will set you back a ridiculous USD$300. Serious fans will no doubt be happy to pay, but the more casual observer may be put off by such high prices.
Those put off by the price should know the standard, $65 edition doesn't skimp on content. It's the same book inside. So if you're a fan of Uncharted 2 - or just video games in general - it won't hurt to save up for a few weeks and get this. For a series that is so passionate about its art and creativity, this is as fitting an accompaniment as we could have hoped for.
If you'd like to see some pictures of the book, I've included a few shots from my copy - the standard edition - below. Below that, reader Mutton-Chops was kind enough to send us pics of his fancy, $300 folio edition.
The Art Of Uncharted 2 is now available worldwide from Ballistic Publishing. Standard edition costs USD$64, special edition USD$129 & folio edition USD$300. A copy of the book was given to us by the publisher for review purposes. Completed every page of the book. Most of them more than once.
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